How to Ace an Interview While Remaining Humble
“Sorry, we just don’t think you’re a fit”
“Sorry, we just had more experienced candidates”
Are two of the most common interview rejections you’ll ever hear.
Both are usually a result of one thing – how you ‘presented’ at interview. Either overselling yourself (therefore potentially coming across as a threat, or someone who may get bored), or underselling yourself (and therefore coming across as not strong enough) could be causal reasons for this type of feedback.
It’s a really difficult balance to get right. On one hand, you want to appear competent, yet sometimes that can come across as over eager, or at worst, arrogant. And likewise, if you are naturally a very humble person, ‘selling’ yourself may give you the shivers.
So what can you do to strike a better balance?
#1 Always use examples
When interviewing, it’s difficult to ‘prove’ your skills unless you use real life examples. Moreover, they are a way of showing your skill in a certain area while not having to talk about yourself, directly. If you are demonstrating skills in influencing by telling your interviewer about a certain situation and how you overcame it, you are not sitting there either struggling for words in how to tell someone how good you are, or sounding overconfident by just talking about your ‘advanced’ skills in this area.
If you do struggle to sell yourself, this gives you a means of communicating. If you have no problem talking about it, you should always give an example anyway to back you up, and bring the conversation back to a relatable situation for the interviewer.
#2 Don’t talk cr*p
If you’re backed into a corner with a question, better to own it, rather than stumble over your answer, or worse, over-elaborate. It’s OK to say that actually you don’t have experience in that area – don’t try and cover it up.
However, what is critical is that you show them 1) where your transferable skills are, 2) what you would do in that situation and 3) what learning you could do on your own initiative to overcome it.
#3 Always relate it back to the company
Just talking about your experience in isolation can be alienating for your interviewer. One of the most common underlying reasons that people don’t get jobs is because the interviewer can’t ‘see’ the person’s experience in the context of their organisation. Think about their challenges and opportunities. Use this to ‘connect’ your skill-set with them. Again, if you’re shy in selling yourself, this is more of a practical, analytical exercise (how I can help you) rather than a sales pitch. If you’re worried you might not be a fit, or that you might be over-experienced, you can use this to sell the value you can offer, and also ‘how’ you might fit into the role.
#4 Ask questions
Although an interview is invariably about you, being engaged, curious and questioning in your approach will bring you closer to your interviewer, and will also help you to better pitch your own skill set, in a humble way. It also allows you to show interest and empathy in your interviewer’s role and what is going on for them – great for building a solid platform for a future working relationship and more likely, an impression you are a ‘fit’.
Always prepare a list of questions before you go into interview, so that you can ask one or two. Assume that a few will be answered during the course of the meeting, so over-prepare and don’t be afraid to bring the list with you.
It’s OK to look like you care!
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